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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020


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Hello everybody and welcome along to our minute-by-minute coverage of this afternoon’s Premier League clash between Manchester United and Watford.

After a long and, rather enjoyable international break if you’re an Ireland supporter, domestic affairs in the top-flight of English football return to our screens.

It’s been a busy and exciting international break for Man United supporters too, with this week seeing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed as full-time manager at Old Trafford. There wasn’t any doubt though, was there?

Ole is permanently at the wheel and it promises to be an exciting final couple of months to this season with a race for top four combined with a mouth-watering Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona to come.

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: Nick Potts

Today that quest for top four continues as Watford roll up to Old Trafford. Javi Gracia’s are only two places below United after a rather brilliant and encouraging season at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets have an FA Cup semi-final against Wolves on the horizon, but turn their attentions to league affairs to today both to build momentum and keep their chances of a top-half finish alive and kicking.

Stick with us, kick-off is coming up in just under an hour’s time at 3.00pm.

Let’s get started with the team news…

TEAM NEWS: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes four changes from the side which exited the FA Cup against Wolves 2-1 a fortnight ago, as Man United try and recover from recent back-to-back defeats.

Juan Mata and Ander Herrera are picked over Diego Dalot and Fred, while Romelu Lukaku is replaced by Anthony Martial up front. Victor Lindelof drops out at centre back, with Phil Jones coming in.

For Watford, Javi Gracia makes five changes from his side’s FA Cup quarter-final victory against Crystal Palace two weeks ago.

Ben Foster, Daryl Janmaat, Christian Kabasele, Miguel Britos and Adam Masina are in, with Heurelho Gomes, Kiko Femenía, Adrian Mariappa, Craig Cathcart, Jose Holebas all dropping out.

Man United: De Gea; Young, Jones, Smalling, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Mata, Rashford, Martial

Substitutes: Romero, Dalot, Rojo, Pereira, Fred, Lingard, Lukaku

Watford: Foster; Janmaat, Kabasele, Britos, Masina; Hughes, Doucouré, Capoue, Pereyra; Deeney, Deulofeu

Substitutes: Gomes, Cathcart, Femenia, Holebas, Quina, Success, Gray

A little over half an hour to go before kick-off. It’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer first official game as permanent manager of Manchester United and even though he must be used to it at this stage, it’s still a very special day for the Norwegian. Will Watford scupper the occasion at Old Trafford?

Let us know how you see today’s game panning out below.

Poll Results:

Man United win (201)
Draw written all over it  (23)
Watford win (15)


Promising start by Watford here. Gerard Deulofeu breaks free down the righthand channel but delays the chance to cross into the box where Troy Deeney was begging for the ball. A poor decision by Deulofeu, with his cross easily blocked by the boot of Chis Smalling and cleared.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: EMPICS Sport


Another big chance for Watford goes begging. Roberto Pereyra finds Abdoulaye Doucoure in acres of space with the goal at his mercy. The central midfielder opens up his body to have a go, but drags his shot poorly wide of the post. Another let-off for Man United, who are under some early pressure at the moment.


I don’t think anyone saw this coming — it’s been all Watford so far. Pereyra, Deeney and Doucoure are enjoying buckets of possession down the left and are causing all sorts of havoc for Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to deal with.


Troy Deeney sees time and space open up 30 yards out from goal and opts for a shot. He hits it sweetly and full of power, but his effort flies well over the crossbar and into the crowd. Deeney was leaning back when he hit it and the ball was just never coming back down to earth to test David de Gea.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: Martin Rickett


A snappy break from Manchester United as the hosts produce their first attack of the game just shy of the ten minute mark. Marcus Rashford races clear and has the better of Christian Kabasele in a one-on-one foot race, but the centre back recovers in time to force a corner.


It’s a dangerous delivery aimed towards the back post. Chris Smalling leaps highest to angle an effort towards goal, but his direct header flies the wrong side of Ben Foster’s post and into the side-netting.


Save! Watford fly back up the other end and De Gea is called into action. Daryl Janmaat goes untracked down the righthand side and chips an inviting cross towards the back post. Troy Deeney does really well to wrestle a header on target, but De Gea reads the danger and produces a decent stop.

Crystal Palace v Manchester United - Premier League - Selhurst Park Source: EMPICS Sport


De Gea temporarily went down injured following that excellent save. The Spaniard seemed to pull a muscle, but after a brief consultation with the United medical staff is all good to continue.


It’s end-to-end at the moment. Will Hughes sees his shot from outside the box blocked and hoofed clear, but that long punt sends Marcus Rashford clean through on goal after Watford were caught out with a high defensive line. Ben Foster comes to the rescue, though, coming from his line to clear the danger.


Another half-chance for the hosts. Luke Shaw goes unnoticed behind enemy lines and dribbles into the box with menace. He has a number of options with Juan Mata and Rashford sticking their arms up demanding the ball for a tap-in. Shaw’s cross is poor, however, and easily cleared by the right boot of Janmaat.

Leicester City v Manchester United - Premier League - King Power Stadium Source: Mike Egerton


Some excellent build-up play from Watford on the edge of the Man United box almost breaks the deadlock. A clever exchange of passes between Deeney and Deulofeu sees the ball fall to Pereyra with a free shot to boot. He tries to guide an effort low into the bottom right corner, but De Gea dives early to save.


Really, really bright football from Watford here. A sloppy, stray pass from Ashley Young sees Gerard Deulofeu with another chance to try and go ahead, but his shot is tame and easily caught by De Gea, who has had his work cut out for him this afternoon.


There are claims for a penalty from the Manchester United supporters. Anthony Martial goes down under a challenge from Miguel Britos, but referee Stuart Attwell is not particularly interested and waves play on. 

Flag 28Mins


Despite all that good early pressure from Watford, Man United take the lead thanks to a brilliant effort from Marcus Rashford. An attack from the visitors produces a fierce counter-attack. Luke Shaw picks up possession deep inside his own half and splits the Watford defence with a pinpoint through ball. Rashford latches onto his pass and dinks the ball past Foster with a composed finish.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: EMPICS Sport


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will breath a sigh of relief with that goal. His side have been pinned back for large patches of this opening half but now have a renewed sense of belief and confidence, vying for a second goal straight away now.


There’s a long pause in play as Gerard Deulofeu goes down requiring treatment. A clash to his head from a stray arm produces a bloody nose, but after some cotton swobs and magic water are applied he seems okay to retain to play again


A good break down the left from United. Ashley Young is unmarked and fizzes a low cross into the mixer, but Miguel Britos does really well to get a block in and stem the tide of pressure for a few moments. Solskjaer’s men are upping the tempo right now.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: EMPICS Sport


Marcus Rashford is having the time of his life out there. The England forward takes the ball on his right foot and sells his marker with a sumptuous dummy, but instead of shooting he plays a stray pass right to the feet of Etienne Capoue. Brilliant dribbling play, but a poor final ball.


The first half coming to a close now. It’s been a full-throttled opening 45 minutes with both sides really going for it. Oddly, you could argue Watford have been the better side even though they trail a goal behind.


A handful of late chances to equaliser for Javi Gracia’s side. Gerard Deulofeu delivers a corner into the box, but it fails to beat the first man and is easily hooked away. Troy Deeney is always looking for possession, but has struggled to beat De Gea thus far despite his best efforts.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: EMPICS Sport


There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the first half.

Flag 45Mins


A very enjoyable opening half full of chances at both ends. Watford were completely on top throughout the opening half an hour, with Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyr causing havoc.

Man United held on, though, and broke the deadlock just before the half-hour mark when a magnificent through ball from Luke Shaw was finished expertly by Marcus Rashford.

More action to come shortly!



A quiet opening spell to the second half so far. Watford pushing probing to try and find a breakthrough, pushing United further back, but you have to say Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have more than held their own to keep Deeney & Co at bay.


Chance! Daryl Janmaat comes close with a powerful, driving shot from inside the box. The ball came his way following an excellent dribbling run from Gerard Deulofeu followed up by some strong hold-up play from Troy Deeney inside the penalty area.


Watford are camped on the edge of the United penalty area right now, constantly going at it in search of an equaliser. A decent run across the box by Pereyra was stocked in its tracks by an expert Luke Shaw slide tackle. The ball petered out to Etienne Capoue, but his strike from range flew poorly over the bar. A dreadful shot.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: Martin Rickett


The chances are absolutely piling up for Watford now, and it’s almost getting wasteful at this stage. Abdoulaye Doucoure sees an effort from the edge of the box blocked down, before a follow-up shot from the right peg of Will Hughes misses the target. It’s all Watford, but nothing is going in.


Troy Deeney has gone down inside the box and there seemed to be a stray arm from Phil Jones there. The defender swung an elbow which appeared to catch the side of Deeney’s face but the referee decides to wave play on.


Close! Deeney chips a dangerous effort which looks like potentially sailing into the top corner, but De Gea stands his ground and pucks the ball from the air. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have never really got a foothold so far in the second half and have been pushed back entirely.

AFC Bournemouth v Watford - Premier League - Vitality Stadium Source: Steven Paston


Watford now have a free in a decent position. An intricate one-two between Deeney and Deulofeu sees the Spaniard race towards the byline, drawing a foul from Chris Smalling from behind.


Deulofeu fizzes the free-kick into the box, but Smalling is first to it and heads clear to end the danger. United have been sitting deep inside their own half for pretty much this entire half. Very odd to see Rashford, Martial and Jesse Lingard so isolated.


Man United finally offer an attack down the other end. Rashford does really well to get in a good position down the right (even though there is a hint of offside). He tries to pick out Martial with a low cross, but Miguel Britos is in the way to punt the ball clear.

Flag 73Mins


Against the run of play Man United double their advantage and can now boast a comfortable two-goal cushion. Some dreadful defending from Watford allows Nemanja Matic to pick out the overlapping run of Jesse Lingard.

He provides a low cross towards the front post where Anthony Martial shoots first-time, and is blocked, but manages to stand back up on his feet and scuff the ball over the line ahead of Ben Foster, who was at sixes and sevens.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: Martin Rickett


Solskjaer’s men had offered so little in attack throughout this second half but have put Watford’s wastefulness to shame at Old Trafford. Javi Gracia’s side have had the lion’s share of possession and a whole host of chances to break level, but have never had that bit of quality to put their opportunities away.


A hairy moment inside the box as David de Gea poorly punches clear from a Watford corner kick. The danger is only temporary though, with left back Adam Masina penalised for a foul on the edge of the box trying to feed the ball back in to keep the attack alive. He receives a yellow card.


The game is slowly starting to peter out now. The Hornets have battled valiantly this afternoon but have nothing to show for it. Their 19 shots compared to Man United’s 8 tells only part of the story of this game, with United simply far more clinical when it really mattered.



There could well be late drama at Old Trafford as Watford halve the deficit in the final minute of normal time. A brilliant one-two between Abdoulaye Doucoure and Troy Deeney sees the midfielder surge through the box and plant a delightful finish beyond the reach of David de Gea. An intriguing end as Solskjaer’s men attempt to hang on in stoppage time.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: Martin Rickett


There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the second half.


Andreas Pereira collects a yellow card for a late foul in injury time. Watford are trying to get the ball back in possession, throwing every man forward to try and force a late chance. There’s a foul by Jesse Lingard on Etienne Capoue and the visitors have a free-kick on the edge of the box in what will be the final kick. The drama!

Roberto Pereyra takes command of the free… but there’s a sigh of relief around Old Trafford as he opts instead to cross into the box. There’s a foul by Miguel Britos who drags out of Phil Jones and David de Gea has a free out. That should be it.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League - Old Trafford Source: EMPICS Sport



There we have it, Man United hang on to secure a pretty important win in their quest to finish in the top four.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial struck either side of half-time, with Abdoulaye Doucoure’s excellent finish in the last minute of normal time making it a nervous finish.

Thanks a million for joining us — you can read our full match report from today’s game at Old Trafford here. Cya!


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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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